Sarma talks tough on Mizoram border row (GS 2 )
- Assam will abide by any law enacted by Parliament that makes it even cede its land to another State but till then it will not allow even an “inch to be encroached upon”, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma asserted on Tuesday, amid the border row with Mizoram.
- Mr. Sarma’s comments came a day after six Assamese people — five police personnel and a civilian — were killed and over 50 injured in the border clashes.
- He also said Assam will move the Supreme Court seeking protection of the Innerline Forest Reserve from destruction and encroachment and deploy three commando battalions in Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts bordering Mizoram to strengthen security. Assam has declared a three-day State mourning following the incident.
‘21.5 mn lost jobs in tourism sector’ (GS 3)
- With the tourism industry among the hardest hit due to the pandemic, it is estimated that about 21.5 million people working in the sector lost their jobs during the nine-month period from April 2020-December 2020, as per the data shared by the government on Tuesday.
- In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Tourism Minister G. Kishan Reddy said a significant number of jobs were lost in the tourism sector once the lockdown was implemented.
- “About 14.5 million jobs during Q1, 5.2 million during Q2 and 1.8 million jobs during Q3 were expected to have been lost as compared to an estimated 34.8 million jobs in the pre-pandemic period of 2019-20 [direct jobs],” he said. Mr. Reddy said this was one of the key findings of the study done by the National Council of Applied Economic Research for the Ministry of Tourism to assess the extent of losses to the sector.
- As per the report, due to overall economic slowdown during 2020-21, tourism economy or tourism direct gross value added (TDGVA) saw a fall of 42.8% in April-June 2020, 15.5% in July-September 2020 and a fall of 1.1% in October-December 2020.
- According to the data compiled by the Ministry of Tourism, domestic tourist visits during the calendar year 2019 stood at 2,321.98 million while those in 2020 stood at 610.21 million.
‘Centre will help to mediate border rows’ (GS 2 )
- The Committees on Subordinate Legislation, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, had been requested to grant further extension of time up to January 9, 2022, to frame the rules under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the Union Home Ministry told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
- In a question on another topic from Haji Fazlur Rehman (BSP), the Ministry said there were disputes arising out of demarcation of boundaries and claims and counter-claims over territories between Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram.
- “Occasional protests and incidents of violence are reported from some of the disputed border areas...the approach of the Central government has consistently been that inter-State disputes can be resolved only with the cooperation of the State governments concerned and that the Central government acts only as a facilitator for amicable settlement of the dispute in the spirit of mutual understanding,” said the written reply.
‘Assam, Mizoram can approach SC, Centre’ (GS 2)
- The long-standing border dispute between Assam and Mizoram can be resolved either by the Supreme Court or the Centre, legal experts said on Tuesday.
- One of the experts called the brewing border dispute “a failure of the Constitutional machinery”.
- While senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi and Assam's standing counsel Debojit Borkakati said the Centre should intervene and take steps for a peaceful settlement, another senior lawyer Dushyant Dave was of the view that both the States should be put under President’s Rule.
- Mr. Dave said there was a failure of the Constitutional machinery in both the States and the violent incident was the ugliest manifestation of the insurrection between the States since Independence.
- He said these north-eastern States had conducted themselves poorly and the incident justified sacking both the governments and keeping the States under the President’s Rule through Governor.
Biden, Kadhimi seal deal to end U.S. combat mission in Iraq (GS 2)
- U.S. President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi sealed an agreement on Monday formally ending the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, but American forces will still operate there in an advisory role.
- The agreement comes at a delicate time for the Iraqi government and could be a boost for Baghdad. Mr. Kadhimi has faced increasing pressure from Iran-aligned parties and paramilitary groups who oppose the U.S. military role in the country.
- Mr. Biden and Mr. Kadhimi met in the Oval Office for their first face-to-face talks as part of a strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq.
- “Our role in Iraq will be ... to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS as it arises, but we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission,” Mr. Biden told reporters.
- There are currently 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq focusing on countering the remnants of Islamic State. The U.S. role in Iraq will shift entirely to training and advising the Iraqi military to defend itself.
- For Mr. Biden, the deal to end the combat mission in Iraq follows decisions to carry out a withdrawal from Afghanistan and wrap up the U.S. military mission there by the end of August.
- Together with his agreement on Iraq, the Democratic President is moving to formally complete U.S. combat missions in the two wars that then-President George W. Bush began under his watch nearly two decades ago.
Panel raps govt. over MSMEs, urges larger economic package (GS 3)
- A Parliamentary panel has pulled up the government for offering inadequate relief measures for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that were worst-affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It mooted fresh measures to help them stay afloat, including a doubling of the 90-day limit for banks to classify their loan dues as problematic.
- Offering loans and long-term measures — as the government had done over the past year — instead of improving the cash flow to generate demand as immediate relief, have put small enterprises in a grim situation, the panel said in its report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.
- The second COVID-19 wave this year ‘even more vigorously ripped the economy, particularly the MSME sector’ just as it was recovering from the initial lockdowns of 2020, the panel said. “The Committee, therefore, recommends that the Government should immediately come out with a larger economic package aimed at bolstering demand, investment, exports and employment generation to help the economy, including MSMEs to recover from the pandemic fallout,” said the report of the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry.
Amid Covid effect, bank steps, wilful defaults rise Rs 38,976 crore (GS 3 Economy)
- Banks have added Rs 38,976 crore from 662 borrower accounts as wilful defaulters during the 12 months ended December 2020 when the Covid pandemic hit the country’s financial system.
- With this, total wilful defaults amounted to Rs 244,602 crore from 12,917 accounts as of December 2020, as against Rs 205,606 crore from 12,255 accounts in December 2019, according to data available from credit information bureau Transunion Cibil.
- Banks are now often using the wilful defaulter status as a weapon to force borrowers to repay loans. Many borrowers pay up fearing the tag, as once they are declared a wilful defaulter, they won’t get any more bank funding. Banks used the wilful default tag during the Covid period, so recoveries improved,” a banking sector source said.
- However, recoveries from some of the top wilful defaulters have remained negligible. A wilful default happens when the borrower has not utilised the finance from the lender for the specific purpose for which finance was availed — and has diverted the funds for other purposes, or siphoned off funds, or disposed of or removed the movable fixed assets or immovable property given for the purpose of securing a term loan without the knowledge of the bank.
No landless farmers in new database
- The Centre’s new National Farmers Database will only include land-owning farmers for now as it will be linked to digitised land records, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
- A data policy was being prepared specifically for the agriculture sector in collaboration with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), he said.
- This exclusion of landless and tenant farmers becomes significant in light of the fact that, when asked whether the database would be used to select beneficiaries of government schemes, Mr. Tomar said, “Government can make use of the database for targeted service delivery with higher efficiency and in a focussed and time bound manner.”
- The database would be linked to the digital land record management system and would thus only include farmers who were legal owners of agricultural land.
- “In future, the possibility of including others may be considered in consultation with State governments and other stakeholders,” Mr. Tomar said, in response to a query about the large number of landless farmers in the country.
China’s sea claims have no basis, says U.S.
- Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday that Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea have “no basis in international law”, taking aim at China’s growing assertiveness in the hotly contested waters.
- Mr. Austin’s broadside came at the start of his first trip to Southeast Asia as U.S. Defence Secretary, as he seeks to rally allies in the region as a bulwark to China.
- President Joe Biden’s administration wants to reset relations with Asian countries and build alliances to face Beijing, after the turbulence and unpredictability of the Donald Trump era.
- Speaking in Singapore, Mr. Austin criticised China’s actions in the disputed sea, where Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with several Southeast Asian states.
- “Beijing’s claim to the vast majority of the South China Sea has no basis in international law,” he said in a speech hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.
- “That assertion treads on the sovereignty of the states in the region,” he said, adding that the U.S. would support countries in defending their rights.
- China claims almost all of the resource-rich sea, through which trillions of dollars in shipping trade passes annually, with competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
- Beijing has been accused of deploying a range of military hardware, including anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles there, and ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its historical claim over most of the waters to be without basis.
Indian astronomers’ part of team spotting first short duration gamma-ray burst from a stellar collapse
- A group of astronomers have detected a very short, powerful burst of high-energy radiation that lasted for about a second and had been racing toward Earth for nearly half the present age of the universe.
- The burst detected by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope on August 26, 2020, turned out to be one for the record books – the shortest gamma-ray burst (GRB) caused by the death of a massive star.
- GRBs are the most powerful events in the universe, detectable across billions of light-years. Astronomers classify them as long or short based on whether the event lasts for more or less than two seconds.
- They observe long bursts in association with the demise of massive stars, while short bursts have been linked to a different scenario.
- The identification of this short event GRB which involved several scientists across the world, including Dr. Shashi Bhushan Pandey from Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), an institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), as well as scientists from other Indian institutions, showed for the first time that a dying star can produce short bursts too.
- From India, The Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune (IUCAA), National Centre for Radio Astrophysics - Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Pune (NCRA) and IIT Mumbai also participated in this work.
- “We already knew some GRBs from massive stars could register as short GRBs, but we thought this was due to instrumental limitations.
- Now we know dying stars can produce short bursts, too,” said Bin-bin Zhang at Nanjing University in China and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
- “Such a discovery has helped to resolve the long-standing issues related to gamma-ray bursts. Also, this study triggers to re-analyse all such known events to constrain number densities better,” Dr. Pandey explained.
Ramayana Circuit is one of the identified thematic circuit of ‘Swadesh Darshan’ scheme: Shri G. Kishan Reddy
- Ramayana Circuit is one of the identified thematic circuit of ‘Swadesh Darshan’ scheme of the Ministry of Tourism under which 2 projects have been sanctioned. The Ministry has also sanctioned projects under Buddhist, Tirthankar, Krishna and Spiritual Circuits.
- In addition, the Ministry of Tourism provides financial assistance to State Governments / Union Territory Administrations for integrated development of identified pilgrimage and heritage destinations under ‘National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD)’ scheme.
Dholavira in Gujarat on UNESCO World Heritage list
- The Harappan city of Dholavira, in present-day Gujarat, was on Tuesday named the 40th Indian site on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
- UNESCO’s announcement came just days after another site, Ramappa Temple in Telangana, was admitted to the list on Sunday.
- “The ancient city of Dholavira is one of the most remarkable and well-preserved urban settlements in South Asia dating from the 3rd to mid-2nd millennium BCE (Before Common Era).
- Discovered in 1968, the site is set apart by its unique characteristics, such as its water management system, multi-layered defensive mechanisms, extensive use of stone in construction and special burial structures,” UNESCO said.
- A range of artefacts of copper, shell, stone, jewellery, terracotta and ivory had been found at the site.
- “The two newly inscribed World Heritage Sites offer great insight into the knowledge and ways of life of earlier societies, customs, and communities,” UNESCO said.